Parakaleo

The Parakaleo ministry in the UK is a sad transvestite called Keith Tiller, who goes round telling people transvestism is wrong, a trans woman’s wife told me around when I transitioned. Parakaleo is Biblical Greek, meaning counsel, including to comfort, console, encourage, urge, appeal, exhort. In the US, Parakaleo is training for Christian counsellors at Stanford University, using the Bible as the main authority but the “Holy Spirit, not self-effort,” to move the person to speak.

I find the Stanford idea of telling people what is God’s will for them highly dangerous, but it pales beside the British fool’s crusade against trans folk. The crusade is ruthless and hateful: the first article I found on the blog is lifted from “Transgender Trend”, which is concerned about legislation which places transgender rights above the right to safety for girls and young women in public bathrooms and changing rooms. Anyone who alleges we should not use the loo because they claim we are a threat to girls has no sense of proportion, and their attacks are unreliable; and their foolishness led to large job-losses in North Carolina, as businesses deserted the bigot-led state.

Tiller claims his cross-dressing led to the end of two marriages and alienation from his two adult children. He bases his understanding on himself.

The crusade is not particularly powerful. It claims to be A Christian ministry seeking to uphold Biblical values to the transvestite, transsexual and transgendered person. Almost no-one uses that threefold TV TS TG division now, it is a failed attempt to fit a complex phenomenon into neat, simple categories. Keith begins with a lie:  The aim of Parakaleo Ministry is to … introduce people to the message of the Gospel and the healing love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Introduce? No, he mostly works with distressed people who have previously been Evangelical Christians. Message of the Gospel?

-Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
-Well, whatever you do, never cross-dress.

He quotes Deuteronomy 22:5, and says It is clear from the passage that His intent that male and female are intended to be complimentary (sic). Whereas, consider the world God created, and see that masculinity and femininity overlap and intermingle. He wants things to be nice and simple, and his own desires distress him. Poor silly man.

We believe that males and females are created distinctly by God, intended to be complimentary, and united only in biblically ordered marriage. “We” is one man.

He then claims cross-dressing is addictive. Active participation, whether alone or in company, will result in an increased desire to pursue the activity. Actually, attempts to suppress it makes the person more obsessive, like Keith.

Finances remain tight – to the point of despair, which affects most of the areas of my life. Thank God. The despairing man will not turn many from Christ, despite enthusiastic support by wicked “pastors” like the one who referred my friend, and also threatened to reveal to the congregation the secret she had told him in confidence. His despair might indicate to someone less stupid and closed-minded than he that he is wrong about his gender, and wrong about God.

Keith is a silly man who has a silly website, on which he shares the most prejudiced and doctrinaire anti-trans articles he can find. Even when he was meeting people, he had little success: my friend thought it was God’s will she should not transition, until she met Keith and saw how ridiculous he was. She transitioned shortly after.

Keith’s worthless fantasies.

The Christian Legal Centre

Attempting to gain publicity, the Christian Legal Centre have rushed out a press release just after the story of J broke. After a boy was forced to live as a girl until rescued by the legal system, they are supporting parents to force a boy to live as a girl. Christian family fear gender-confused daughter will be taken away unless they bow to social workers’ name change demands they trumpet.

Powys county council puts this in non-legal language: professionals are very worried that your child is not being looked after properly and he/she is at risk. There has to be “significant harm” from the parents’ lack of care. This is not some trendy social worker enforcing gender orthodoxy against Christian common sense, as CLC would have you believe.

Even the CLC press release indicates that harm. Until he was 13, the child “Gary” was home-schooled with his siblings. He started to self-harm. He ran away. Child mental health services told the parents that unless they allowed his name change, their [son] would be at risk of suicide. That’s a quote from the press release. CLC’s blind self-righteousness damns themselves.

The family now face a meeting with social workers in November, in which it is indicated and believed that the social worker will be pushing for Bethany to be allowed to use the name Gary in school and the family will be pressured into allowing her to receive ‘therapy’ from the Tavistock Institute in Leeds for its ‘Gender Identity Development Service’. Aged 14, Gary is too late for puberty blockers, and too young for T injections. Therapy will be talking therapy. There will be diagnosis. Is the child trans? He might start to wear a binder.

Forcing an agenda

That’s their heading. They really don’t see. They want the parents to be able to control a teenager. The child will only be this intransigent when denied age-appropriate levels of self-determination. Until we leave our parents, we negotiate ways of living together. Only where a child is far too controlled in every aspect of life would she insist on self-determination in this way, against her own gender identity.

The thing which makes me pause is that Gary is in a relationship with a girl. His “Christian” parents would oppose the child being lesbian as much as being trans. It is just possible that the child thinks

Girl with girl relationships are not OK
therefore I am a boy.

Or, that given that the parents hate lesbians, s/he insists s/he is a boy as an act of pure rebellion. Any LGBT child will be confused, disorientated and damaged by such a “Christian” upbringing. May God show the parents, and CLC, the error of their ways! However, the Tavistock centre are the professional experts able to discern this. Children like Bethany need psychiatric help, shrieked Andrea Williams, CLC chief executive, yet she opposes the CAMHS advice and referral to Tavistock.

It is very unfortunate that the social worker appears to have jumped to the conclusion that Bethany is transgender without even waiting for a formal diagnosis from the psychiatrist, Williams continued. Well, all that the child can achieve now is a completely harmless name change. If they is not trans, presenting as male will be uncomfortable. The self-harm and running away indicates “significant harm” to the child, which arises from the parents’ dogmatism.

The Daily Mail has quoted extensively from the press release, without criticism. Here’s the press release.

Oh, enough of this! Inspired by this New Yorker article informing me that people say “No, totally” to mean “yes”, I have been writing doggerel again.

So let us praise, with verve and vim
this holophrastic contranym
Though no means yes, we’re not confused
No, totally, we’re disabused
Can yes mean no? Of course it can!
to sarcastic contrarian.

Here’s my Donald Trump verse- note the internal rhymes!!- to a Chuck Berry tune:

Mr Pence and Mr Trump
get ye hence. I’ve got the hump
Mr Trump and Mr Pence
I’d like to thump you, you’re so dense.

Michael P and Donald T
After that come “S” then “D”.
Governor and bankrupt man
They don’t really have a plan.

Donald has some business tips
Grab their pussy, kiss their lips
Speaker Ryan’s naught to say
wishes Trump would go away.

Donny’s polls are down the hole
so he claims the elections’ stole
Now he tweets a dismal wail:
“Hillary should be in jail”.

Debating Donny’s on the prowl
Lip is wrinkled, mood is foul
As she speaks, behind he looms
His campaign he totally dooms………

The Geologic Column

The Geologic column demonstrates the age of the Earth is at least hundreds of millions of years old, and by the intricate order of fossils demonstrates evolution. It is the atheist’s friend, refuting fundamentalist evangelicalism. So it is disturbing that six of my first nine Google results for “geologic column” are Creationist. First of those is “Ten Misconceptions about the Geologic Column” by Steven A Austin, PhD.

Creationists drafted the GC, he shouts! Well, before nuclear fusion was understood, Lord Kelvin calculated the age of the Sun as only thirty million years. Science can be wrong. He noted the “Denudation of the Weald” had taken 300m years, and wondered at the difference. That denudation remains controversial.

Adam Sedgwick, whom Austin names, was the son of an Anglican vicar, born 1785. He took holy orders. Yet he opened his lectures to women, and campaigned to allow non-Anglicans to enter Cambridge University. This progressive is a strange hero for a creationist. He described and named the Cambrian era based on physical characteristics of rocks unique to Wales, after research involving Charles Darwin as a field assistant. He believed in evolution- “We all admit development as a fact of history”- yet not natural selection, believing that there is a moral and metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. He thought God was involved, but that did not make him deny the age of the Earth, or the progress of fossils over millions of years. He changed his mind about the Biblical Flood when certain deposits were shown to have been made by glaciers, not floods.

I don’t know whether anyone believes Austin’s “misconception No.3”, The strata systems of the geologic column are worldwide in their occurrence. Where would all that rock come from? It is a wonder that 0.4% of the Earth has all ten sedimentary systems. Elsewhere, earthquakes have folded rock from under the surface over later rock, so that the strata may be upside down or vertical; the upper rock may erode, over hundreds of millions of years.

This means there are doubts, as with the Weald. Particular rocks may be dated in different ways: radiometric, or by the position of fossils. Austin calls this “special pleading”- yet while the date of any particular rock formation might be disputed, the general idea that rocks form in strata over millions of years, and may be dated radiometrically or by fossils is clear.

I would have said “indisputable”. Someone with no regard for truth, or for the integrity of the scientific community, clearly may dispute them. Austin has accumulated knowledge: the Cambrian System on an intercontinental scale is typically composed of quartzose sandstone, overlain by glauconitic sandstone with dark-brown shale, overlain by impure, light-brown limestones.

Some of his dissembling is only thinly disguised by the use of specialist words. Some fossils appear to be distinctive of certain systems [but] (most fossil taxa range through a few to several systems), he says. A taxon is a classification: Chordata, having a spinal cord, is a taxon of animals since the Cambrian.

Ken Ham’s picture may give some part of the motive.

l morality based on Bible

Beside the lie that only bad people, who if they were ever worshippers were never true Christians, would be gay, have an abortion or need a divorce, the lie that the geologic column is consistent with literal belief in Genesis 1 is tiny. Jesus warned against such people. The illusion may be comforting until the hapless believer is “bad”, suffers terror of being discovered, then is cast out.

Taking a stand

My test of whether someone is truly Christian is their attitude to LGBT. Any mature Christian will be entirely accepting.

Religion is a tool for helping people to understand and relate to Reality, or alternatively to block out and deny reality in a fruitless search for comfort. Humankind cannot bear very much reality, and those who can bear very little can huddle together in conservative Evangelical churches. There they can be reassured that gays are bad, God made the world less than ten thousand years ago, and everyone outside their little huddle is deluded, and going to Hell. Any threat to that belief system and the bottom drops out of their world, which is why they defend it so aggressively.

And yet, unless they close their eyes, put their fingers in their ears, and shout “La La La” all the time, reality will challenge their falsehoods, and, thank God, so will Christianity. If they actually read the Bible they will realise that God could not create everything, then man and woman on the sixth day, and at the same time create man, then plants and animals, then woman. People do believe impossible or incompatible things, but eventually the scales fall from their eyes. They will also see that while the Bible can be mined for reasons to see other people as bad, it also says that everyone is your neighbour, even those you most despise, then commands you to love your neighbour.

Then the despising falls away. Seen with love, we see the beauty of the Samaritan, and all which seemed most loathsome is seen not to be.

Yet there are these terrible attempts to defend the fundamentalist lie. And some people are just stuck. They cannot turn to Christ, because they prefer the illusion.

I did not like Henry Meynell Rheam, so look at his work more deeply.

Rheam, the fairy wood

The Die-hards

Amazingly, there are some people who still think Christianity and “respect for the Bible” requires them to be homophobes? They look at some of the verses about LGBT- not David and Jonathan, obviously, or Ruth and Naomi, but the other ones- and think God Disapproves, and so should they. They do not consider the verses unequivocally supporting slavery mean that God’s Will is that there should be slavery, but you see they would have been stupid or conservative enough to do so in 1865, or even 1900.

What are we to do? How might they be brought to see the truth about God, who does not share their hatred? There is very little we can do. To my patient explanations, they respond with undigested and misunderstood slabs of Biblical text, and paranoid allegations of persecution, or patronising invitations to deny God like they do, and assertions that only they are Christian. The more I point out Biblical truth to them, the more they retreat into unbiblical delusion.

All I can do is shake the dust off my feet, and leave them behind.

Venus at her toilet

Angel

At Greenbelt, I met an angel. That is the only way I have to describe her.

She is ordained as an Anglican priest, and is without a parish, working as a prison chaplain. She is a channel for the love of God to the men in her care. We agreed how there is spiritual reality, but the words we use to describe it often just get in the way: the church quarrels and faffs about the precise words used, but the things described circle but do not touch the spiritual reality beyond. So we shed our illusions, and see reality for ourselves, and might be able to share our experience with others who have had them too; but it is so difficult with those yet to have them.

The other prison chaplain gives clear guidance, which a man who has suffered a chaotic lifestyle may value. One of their parishioners became a Born-Again Christian, clear that the Bible might be known and give a clear understanding of God’s will for human living. One of the easiest ways of reaching a state of mindfulness or presence is to be submerged in beauty- Heaven in a wild flower, as Blake saw. However there is little immediately recognisable beauty in a prison. You may see beauty in a rusting table-leg, but it helps to see it in a tree first.

She gave him a copy of Brian Cox’s book Wonders of the Universe. Then she saw him again, and he had got it: he had seen the beauty in that book. Writing, now, I am aware that my words give a facile, misleading account of the experience. She was sharing with me one of her delights, one of her successes, in a job where she must have great dollops of yuck; slow progress or apparent sterile stasis for damaged men. I believe this man has a more complex understanding of how reality is, beyond the certainties of the conservative Evangelical. I have the advantage of having looked into her face as she told of it.

I felt her love as she told me, and showed my love to her. We hugged. Before, I had given her Advices and Queries, and declaimed from it.

I was outside the tent around 11.30 when a thick cloud, moving fast across the sky, which had been between us and the moon suddenly wasn’t, leaving a patch of clearness. It was as if the light had suddenly been switched on. I saw Terry clearly, and his clear shadow.

Luca Giordano, Youth tempted by the Vices

Why are they wrong?

James wondered why any Christian ever might disagree with him. Fortunately, he has the answer: they are ensnared by the World, and have not allowed the Holy Spirit access to every area of their heart. When they do, they will think exactly as he does, and leave behind the things he disagrees with- which are “The World’s System”.

This absolves James from thinking. Anyone who disagrees with him is simply less spiritually mature than he. When you have had the same inestimable blessings James has had, you will think just like him, and if you do not, and go to Hell- well, the ways of God are strange.

Whereas, we do not all follow the same path of spiritual maturing, but learn different lessons at different times.

One has only so much head-space, and surely it is better to devote it to learning what is Right, what I Believe, than to listening to wrong people. This short-cut absolves you from ever having to refute them. Their ideas are not even wrong in an interesting way, so should not detain us.

I give some attention to any opinion. Possibly, it will increase my understanding. I might be happier with more confidence in my own opinion. There are many good choices: like the supermarket cereals aisle, there might be a best cereal but there are many which are good enough; with so many things one can be wrong, but not wrong enough to hurt. I am giving more attention to attitudes, ways of being: some people with ways of being with others, or in the world, radically different from mine, seem effective or happy and I might learn from them. Though some are merely an awful warning.

Like James, I experience God as changing me, bringing me to health. The changes are unimaginable beforehand, sometimes inexplicable after. It is one reason why I am religious not atheist: I do not proceed by rational argument, but sometimes against what had seemed rational.

Degas, at the milliners in gloves

If I should die

The church is completely beautiful. The central section of the nave has rounded arches, conceivably Norman, with those thick pillars. The west and east ends of the nave have Gothic arches. Unusually, the window above the altar is of clear glass; the whole is whitewashed; so it combines light and solidity. It feels strong and supportive, a womb of protection against the World, filled with Light to lift the heart.

I was there for a concert, the City of London Chamber Orchestra playing the Britten Sinfonietta, the Lark Ascending, the Siegfried Idyll and Mozart’s twentieth symphony. I could imagine myself there each Sunday morning, part of the church community, singing the Creed and the Gloria, kneeling for the consecration, my spirit lifted and grounded at the same time. My spiritual practice now is to open myself to life and experience, so I chose an open posture and paid full attention to the Wagner, and was rewarded by being moved to tears.

“They’re all hypocrites. No-one believes that” say more than one friend. Well. Certainly not the virgin birth, and possibly not the divinity of Christ, though God spoke in Him. My Christianity is stories and images which encourage me or help me make sense of the world; a link to a spiritual reality beyond the reality I can comprehend with my conscious, occasionally rational mind, or express in words. God is. I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, living in my heart.

Not all Christians feel this way. Evangelicals have a series of verbal formulations, which fit to the words of the King James Bible, to which they consciously assent, formulations like Christ died as a sacrifice for our sins provided by God yet the Sacrifice needed against God’s Wrath, which you must Accept, in order to be Saved from Hell- conceived by some as a state of perpetual conscious torment after earthly death. Well, not all people are as sensitive as I am, or have my emotional intelligence.

The Isaiah 53:5 project seems to know the weakness of the Evangelicals. He imagines women craving appreciation: “Do you see me? Do you delight in me?” He says “most husbands” do not even hear: perhaps because of the vilely narrow concept some Evangelicals have of what is a “real man”. I don’t like the idea that “all women” feel exactly the same- my femininity, the Evangelical ideal, is certainly not the experience of all women. With his heart in the right place, I53 demands that men show their appreciation. Some men and women are naturally like this.

Violet and her atheist chums had a good laugh at this. It seemed to me a wasted opportunity: deriding the others’ view, rather than using it as a chance for understanding.

My loveliest religious experience to date was on Monday 4 May. I had a heartfelt conviction of God’s love for me and my beauty as a created animal. And I still want to be appreciated, for someone to acknowledge that I can light up a room, that my drama and dance is Beautiful- by her words or her appreciative look.

Rossetti, Joan of Arc

Winsome Evangelicals

The heart of the Gospel is the Love of God. Rather than going on about Hell, like so many Evangelicals, Joel Osteen, among others, embodies loving acceptance of all, as all kinds of sinners cross the threshold of the Church. As Paul says after enumerating really really bad people, And such were some of you. Here the weary, scunnered and flummoxed by the World, may find rest for our souls. And here’s the collection plate.

Here’s past0r_r0bert, coming from much the same place. He gets much of his argument from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, but rather than being horrible about outsiders, like Evan Lenow on trans women, he attempts to portray their false understanding of masculinity as some sort of ideal to which men should aspire. He goes over the story of Adam and Eve as if it were literally true. He welcomes every man, as Christ would- no matter what mess you are in right now, you have great value because you were created in the image of God– but then gives this masculine ideal:

A godly man is not ruled by his passions, but rather conquers them
– does not harm his family, but protects them
– does not neglect his family, but nurtures them
– does not abuse his family, but cares for them
– does not rule over his family as a tyrant, but serves them like Jesus
– does not see women as objects, but as image-bearers of God

For those who can fit themselves to it, this may seem attractive, though no-one fits it perfectly. r0bert sticks with the procrustean idea: married women should Allow your husband to lead and meet his failures with support not criticism. And While all men are unique in their own way, they all share a common design.

He is nasty about gay people on the way: when we use labels such as wimp, gay, loser, we dehumanise him. Gayness and transgenderism have resulted in confusion about men and women.

r0bert is not quite as vile as some Evangelicals. It is so much better to present your understanding of the Christian life as a positive ideal than to condemn outsiders as Al Mohler, say, does; but still his message only fits the small group who can just about conform to his idea of normal. He would let the rest twist in the wind. However welcoming he appears, he denies the variety and beauty of God’s good creation, calling it “confusion”. Perhaps he has not read that in Christ there is no male nor female.

Osteen said that while the Bible condemns gay sex that would not be the first message he would emphasise. But while it is in any part of his message, he is an oppressor, driving people from God.

Is not Mary beautiful with the Moon? One might almost think her Artemis or Diana.

Murillo, Immaculate conception

Jesus Unmasked

I am grateful to Susan Ritchie or Sanderson for her generous gift of the book Jesus Unmasked by Todd Friel. It is a token of Christian love for someone only met through blogging- hooray for WordPress! Susan shows little sympathy or understanding for trans women, but wishes to reach out.

I feel talked down to by the over-simplified style. Few of us have the patience for waiting. Imagine waiting four hundred years for someone. OK, you’d be dead, but that’s not the point. It is all like that, which gets wearing. It has silly errors: it claims that the “devil” tempted Eve, rather than the “Serpent”. More seriously, it states substitutionary atonement as if it were true, and evinces a literal belief in the creation story, even in Job and Jonah: The Old Testament is actually a history book with theology in it. There are no true allegories… but there are actual events that are fuzzy pictures of something else. Whereas any understanding of carbon dating, ice cores from Antarctica, or the fossil record refutes that. My heart sank at the endorsement from Ken Ham on the cover. Literalism leads Friel to call 397-5BC “The silent years”, ignoring the fact that some of the psalms and the final Hebrew/Aramaic form of Daniel were written or edited in the time of the Maccabees.

Fuzzy pictures: it takes the OT as prophecy of Jesus. It says that the Ram caught in a thicket was a prefiguring of Jesus. That is a valid interpretation, but he should not exclude others.

Friel delights in cruelty. The first nine plagues failed to soften Pharaoh’s heart, so God sent plague number ten and it was a doozey. Susan left her card in the book at p81, where Friel claims God is exceedingly long-suffering and amazingly kind, in a section on the extermination of the Canaanites. He loves Hell: There will not be a trap door with a chute that leads sinners to hell like a water park slide. God Himself will cast them to eternal damnation… they will suffer eternal conscious torment.

Unable to criticise post-modernism, he produces a straw man. Even though we completely disagree, we are both right. Then he claims his account of Jesus is true and Revealed. But the Bible is a conversation, a series of unreconcilable stories. There are many interpretations.

His contempt for people prevents him from seeing them clearly. The Pharisees and Sadducees wore splendid robes and would never stoop to hug children and babies. No, they were people who attempted to do God’s will by conforming to a set of complex rules- like modern Evangelicals. Of course they hugged children. He claims the same crowds who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem with chants of Hosanna one week later were chanting “Crucify him!” Ridiculous, there were a million people in Jerusalem for Passover.

What can I agree with? He says the Bible is a progressive revelation of God. Indeed. The culmination is Jesus.

Should conservative Evangelicals wish to show their love, I would rather they prayed for me. Whatever they desire for me, the Holy Spirit will translate their prayer for my good.

Another picture by Sir John Lavery, who delights me.

John Lavery, Miss Auras, The Red Book